Eight killed in Aceh violence
By staff and wire reports
JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Police in the Indonesian province of Aceh say at least eight people have been killed in the latest upsurge in violence in the troubled territory.
Police spokesman Sad Harunantyo said five people were shot dead in a raid by "elite soldiers" on a separatist rebel base in a remote village in central Aceh Saturday.
In addition he said rebels shot dead three civilians on the same day in the provincial capital Banda Aceh some 1,700 km (1,060 miles) northwest of Jakarta.
The Free Aceh Movement (GAM) denied the killings, describing the report as a police effort to discredit the group.
"It's just more propaganda," GAM spokesman Amni Marzuki said.
Meanwhile, dozens of houses were burned down Sunday after Acehnese rebels clashed with Indonesian security forces, Radio 68H in Jakarta reported.
GAM and Indonesian security forces have accused each other of being the attacks, which have caused hundreds of villagers to flee the area.
The latest violence comes ahead of planned peace talks between the Indonesian government and the separatists to be held in the Swiss city of Geneva next month.
Chief security minister Agum Gumelar and rebel leaders are expected to meet on July 2 and 3.
The two sides last met in Geneva four months ago when they agreed to extend indefinitely a ceasefire -- an agreement which appears to have been largely been ignored by both sides.
Thousands have been killed in clashes between the rebels and security forces in the past decade.
Deaths in Spice Islands
Violence has also flared in the Moluccas, also known as the Spice Islands, where reports have emerged of at least 20 people killed during a search for weapons in the provincial capital of Ambon Thursday.
"There was some misunderstanding on Thursday with the police which triggered an exchange of fire," said Malik Selang, secretary general of the Indonesian Ulemas Council in the Moluccas.
"The city is calm now although tense," he added.
The Moluccas has been torn by religious and communal clashes since January 1999 when a row between a Christian bus driver and Muslim boy during the Muslim Eid al-Fitr celebration escalated into ethnic violence.
Thousands have been killed in fighting since then.
The Moluccas, which lie some 2,300 km (1,400 miles) northeast of Jakarta, are home to roughly equal numbers of Christians and Muslims.
A civil emergency, one level below martial law, has been in force in the once idyllic islands since June 2000.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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